Hot Potato, Hot Potato, One, Two …

Page after silky page of that first chapter, I turn. My focus returns to the computer screen. It’s like a foreign language. A sadness overtakes my soul. Will this be another class that seeks to drive us straight into the ground of hopelessness? My daughter’s confused expression begs the same question. How do I help her carry the weight of this? I shouldn’t help? But that’s not my mama nature. It’s certainly not God’s nature.

How can we abandon the ones we love?

My mind swirls back to that calm summer day, sitting on the front porch and watching her toddler-size-2 shoes come my way. Baby Girl tripped on a land timber and her face hit the cement. Praise God she didn’t lose her teeth, but oh, her lip. I swept her into my arms, as her tears soaked into my shoulder. I sank under her weight as we both cried. When she finally woke, with a swollen lip, she said, “Big.”

20.Karalee's busted lip - Copy (2)Some things are too big to carry alone. We aren’t strong enough to keep holding the weight ourselves. But we carry each other’s burdens. That’s God’s way. 

But it’s painful, burdensome, crushing …

“I don’t know, baby. But keep reading, and when I return, we’ll figure something out.” Let’s pray over this together, I should have said.

She smiles. “Okay, Mama.” Her shoulders rise. Is her load a little lighter?

My shoulders inch toward the ground. Carrying burdens might be your way, God, but …

DSC_7533 (8) - CopyI buckle myself into the truck, and we trample gravel and black-top toward the feed store. My stomach knots, tears stinging my eyes. Because I’m so much older than her, if I can’t understand this, how can she? How can I expect her to?

“Are you going inside the feed store?”

“No,” I say. “I’m too discouraged. I don’t feel good, and I don’t want to have to see or talk to anyone right now.” I smile, laughter slipping out through my hesitant heart. Being honest can have its pluses.

The truck rocks with the oncoming, overbearing weight of hay. One bundle, two …

The big hunk of metal sinks and finally stills under the bulky pressure.

God, help. Please, help. We can’t take a heavy burden right now. It’s too heavy for her, and it’s too heavy for me. We can’t even carry it together. And I just don’t want to. Hot potato, hot potato, one, two … Lord, be my three. Be the one who always gets stuck with the three. The one who takes the searing heat. Because it’s never too heavy or hot for you.

Returning home, I stare out the window, trying to shift into a better humor. Black cows. Brown horses. Blue sky. Green trees.

The hay is removed, the weight is lifted, the truck rising.

DSC_7535 (6) - CopyAfter opening the garage door, I head into the house. Both my girls are sitting at the table, staring over the computer.

“We figured it out, Mama.” One, they’re smiling.

“You figured it out.” And two, I’m smiling.

How could we possibly exist without The Three? 


How has God been The Three for you lately?

Finding That Conversation Place

I trail the soft, cleansing cloth over each hill, every valley. So much dirt and stain. Why did I ever think I could wear white? What’s wrong with me? The brown would have been a better fit, hiding impurities, all the unlovely, embarrassing yuck. He tried to tell you. Why didn’t you listen?

O Soul Within, it’s been years. You need to wear white. You need to own this. It’s yours. It’s yours for the taking. And it was costly. Don’t let it go to waste.

I swipe my forehead, as the temperature soars to summer-unbearable that only our beloved Texas makes bearable. Every locust on site tunes in to my fuzzy channel. I head inside and grab a popsicle from the freezer. Walking back out, I stand there evaluating everything before me.

Just do it, Shelli.

I sit down in that stained rocking chair that used to be so white. I own it. I start rocking. And this feels so nice. I grab another popsicle and head back out.

Everyone must think I’ve lost my mind. Sitting in that dirty chair? It’s one thing to plop down in what you can’t see, but to take on the seen?

DSC_7273 (4)Little Bit, daughter #1, pops out the door. She couldn’t stand it any longer. “Can I sit with you, Mama?”

“Of course. Grab popsicles.”

It doesn’t take long outside to realize why the chairs are so stained. June bugs, grasshoppers, things that sting (mosquitoes, wasps …), spiders overhead. It’s a jungle out there. Truly it is.

We rock. My hands freeze, as I push up the icy-blue sweetness. “I can’t write,” I say. “At a time in my life when I should feel the most encouraged, I have never been more discouraged. I can’t even manage a blog post. A simple blog post. What’s wrong with me?”

“You’re a good writer, Mama,” Little Bit says.

I release my empty popsicle package to the ground.

DSC_7275 (3)I push out of that chair, grab more popsicles,  and nudge the grasshopper off the seat when I return, while begging his pardon. We continue rocking.

Breaking the short silence, my girl says, “What’s wrong with me, Mama?”

“Not a single thing. You’re perfect just the way you are. You have to be patient, trust, and wait on God,” I say.

Little Bit tosses her empty container to the ground.

Baby Girl, daughter #2, sticks her head out the door. It was only a matter of time. She has forever been my “I go where you go” daughter. “Want another popsicle?” she asks.

DSC_7277 (3)We two smile big and unanimously say, “Yes!”

Baby Girl hands everyone their cold treat and sits on the front porch step. I need one more rocking chair. And in her quietness, she sips on that pink ice until she releases her trash to the ground, along with all her heart’s unspoken. We know.

I toss my hair over the chair’s back, like the once perfectly white, stained wooden slat is a pony-tail holder. I don’t care what my hair touches … stain, tiny spiders. I don’t look; I just use it. The stain doesn’t bother me anymore, and come to think of it, that weathered look has always appealed to me anyway, the perfectly imperfect.

And would you look at that? Each baby girl has followed me, owning that white, distressed as it may be.

The cool air greets my flesh. I prop one bare foot up on the seat, while my other sways that chair and me back and forth. And somehow everything feels so clean and new. Just right.

I observe the pile of emptiness that’s fallen to the ground. “I think we might need a trash can out here.”

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Do you have anything needing to be tossed away? What is threatening to trash your confidence? And do you have a place you love to gather with those who get you? How did you stumble across that conversation place?

I would crawl into bed with my girls when they were little, and we’d talk hours into the night. But somewhere in their growing up, we’d lost that cherished time. I’m so glad I sat down in that rocking chair at the onset of summer, that I found that conversation place, because every day I hear, “Let’s go sit on the front porch.”  I drop everything, because I know that means we’ll gather popsicles and do some mother/daughter talking. I know their reasoning is partly because they get a break, and partly because they love me, but mostly because we always see God.

What Makes Us Work

“Let’s get pictures in the bluebonnets,” I say. It’s that time of year. It’s a Texas thing. Everyone does it. From young to old. You can’t fiddle around too long, because they only last about two weeks.

“You wear your blue sweater …” I say.

“I’ll wear my new sundress,” one says.

“I’ll wear …” I enter my closet, excitement flooding my heart.

But then my heart sinks. Because year after year, I know who is coming along.

Our same ol’ spot isn’t there anymore. We head to another patch. It’s not as pretty. Hilly. Rocky. A house is being built close by. Getting decent pictures is going to take some brainstorming. Creativity. But who has time for that? “Shelli, you should have pre-planned.” The words whisper over my ear.

DSC_2601DSC_2608I pull the car onto the old county road and ease over to the side. One girl gets out, fabric swaying to the breeze, another exits, I place my pink boot onto the asphalt road, and then Attitude slides out. Every single time, Attitude comes with us. We didn’t even invite her.

“The ground is wet,” one says.

Attitude grins.

“It doesn’t matter. It’s once a year … Come on.” It’s possible that I say that. “I’ll go first.” I grab a raincoat, hand over the camera, and evaluate the situation. After placing the coat on the ground, I try to sit where my bottom won’t get wet. My new pants, you see.

“How do you want this picture, Mom?” asks the camera girl. A truck needs to drive by us. Camera girl scoots to the side of the road, allowing the vehicle to pass on that narrow strip. Another car. Scoot to the side. Another truck. Scoot. What? Grand Central Station? Isn’t this the country?

I can’t even imagine the look on my face.

Attitude smirks, rubbing her hands together.

DSC_2561 (2)“Be creative,” I say. Attitude walks up beside me and leans over my shoulder, wanting in the picture. I can’t even begin to push her away. And actually, I suddenly kind of like her. Her dress is pretty and so is her hat. Look at those sparkly sandals.

“I don’t know what you want, Mom.” Another truck passes, another truck, and another truck. My girl scoots over. Scoot.

“Just do it. Hurry. Before another truck comes.” Fighting the persistent breeze, I attempt to put my hair back into place. Another truck. Another truck. Scoot. “Switch places. I’m done.” I take the camera. Another truck. Another truck. Pink boot scoot. Boot scoot.

Construction is clearly taking place down the road, while I’m deconstructing.

“It’s wet.” Another truck. “There’s a bee.” She’s terrified of bees, and I’m the bee-charmer.

Another truck. Scoot.

DSC_2606I look at my two girls. After 20 years, I still can’t believe they are mine. The mine-of-the-heart kind. I find myself climbing into my grandmother’s lap, in my mind, and she says, “No matter how big you get, you’ll always be my baby.” My babies. No matter how big they get. I love these babies. And I loved my grandmother. She wasn’t perfect, but I loved her so. What made it work? What makes us work?

Attitude taps me on the shoulder and points a finger, letting me know one girl is bothered by another bee. And then look … there’s the pesky breeze.

DSC_2567 - Copy (2)In the car, Attitude locks her passenger seat door and turns up the heat.

I scan through the photos on my camera. “I look aggravated in that one. Why didn’t you tell me? We’re supposed to help each other out.”

DSC_2598 (2)Attitude smiles.

“We didn’t get one good picture.” I stomp my proverbial foot. Can you even have a proverbial foot? “Why does it always have to be like this? It’s once a year. Can’t we just manage once a year? One day you’ll be so glad to have these pictures.” Or will they? What will they remember? Attitude? 

“You’re a bad mother,” Attitude whispers, and she locks everyone’s car doors and laughs. And goodness, it’s hot. Where is the air conditioning?

I load the pictures on my computer, once we return home, and browse through.

Attitude peers over my shoulder, shaking her head.

Well, I don’t know. I think I disagree. That one turned out okay. And look, that one did, too. I open the door and invite Attitude to leave.

One baby is sitting there. The other sits there.

DSC_2574 - Copy (2)DSC_2564 - Copy (2)A knock comes to the front door. I hurry to slip out of sight, not wanting him to know anyone is home. Because I know better than to let Pride into the house.

“Look, baby girl.” My arm slips around one. “We got a good one.” I smile. She smiles. We all smile. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry, too.”

They climb onto my lap, and I rock. “No matter how big you get, you’ll always be my babies.” And right there, I know.

I know what makes us work.


What do you do when Attitude slips into the room?

God Uses The Puddles

Would she really trade me for ice cream and candy? On the way home from my meeting, I stew–the warm, tasty kind. My girl … she was just a little too excited for me to depart from home today. “When are you leaving, Mom?” she’d asked with a smile.

I pull into the garage. My girls step out of the house, waiting to hug me. My focus locks onto my youngest. “You are in so much trouble,” I say. I head toward her. She laughs, crouching into the wall. “You wanted me to go.” I tickle her. The veins on her neck pop out, like always, through her belly laugh.

Don’t ever want me to go, baby girl. 

“Let’s go jump in the puddle down the road,” I say. The girls slip on their rain boots, I grab my camera, and we trek down the road. The marshy ground boasts hoof prints and foot prints. The sky recently released loads of rain on us. A once empty bucket under a tree now holds over ten inches of water. Such a novelty for dry, Texas land.

We pass our neighbor’s home that burned completely to the ground two years ago. Rebuilt. Loss, but brand new. Oh, how we needed a downpour that night. Many of our neighbors’ front yards resemble ponds now. Even lakes. Water threatens their doorsteps.

“Have you decided what you want to do for your birthday?” I ask the youngest. We pour over a few ideas as we reach our destination, still lacking vision.

“Let me go a little farther, so I’ll capture the prettiest scenery behind you.” As I turn around, the girls step out into the water that covers the road. They touch it, really feel it. They stand there across from each other, smiling.

DSC_1288 (5)DSC_1379 (5)Don’t ever lose these moments, I want to say, reflecting over the past. Hold on. You’ve shared so many amazing years together. Don’t trade them for anything. Always be there for each other, no matter how old you get. You’re sisters, not by birth but by your worth. God loved you so much, that He had a plan for your lives. After He knit you together, He placed you together.

Oldest one is already soaring in the air. I watch that youngest one. She crouches.

DSC_1387 (4)My baby turns eighteen this month. Eighteen.

I bend to the ground, trying to capture their moment. My moment.

At 13 months old, I didn’t know if my youngest would make it. Tears poured from my heart on her 2nd birthday, because she’d made it. Cancer crushes. Disease destroys. We’ve waded through so many puddles along the way. We’ve tripped and fallen into the puddles because chemo weakens the ankles of a small child. We’ve wandered in the puddle of how to stop holding hands, when attachment keeps you from falling but you’ve outgrown it now. We’ve muddled through the puddle of fear, fear that another puddle is looming up ahead, threatening. So much personal loss …

But brand new. Stronger. Closer.

In that bent position, her once thinned hair is long and flowing, curly, healthy, bouncing in the breeze.

I don’t want you to go, but I know you will. Oh, how blessed I’ve been.

She soars.

DSC_1397 (8)And when you soar, baby girl, you leave all those puddles behind. And I’ll stay right here and watch you, for as long as I can. While you’re still in sight. And when you land, because we always tend to land, we stomp them. We make a splash–on ourselves and others. The clean, pure kind–brand new–so welcoming to a land of drought. Because nothing is wasted, young one. Touch it, really feel it.

God uses the puddles.

Happy 18th birthday, Katelyn Grace Littleton

 

Guess How Much I Love You

 

Can I be happy today? My first thought of the day. Underneath all the warmth, down feathers, and fluff, an empty feeling tugs at my heart. An uncertainty. I sink low into the pillow-top mattress. I ease back the covers from my face and gasp for air. Still in a daze of sleep, I wonder–Or do I have a reason to be sad today? Am I safe? Is life good right now? Or bad? Is someone upset at me right now? Have I disappointed someone? What’s pressing on me today?

Mourning comes in the morning.

The light shining in from the window covers me, as the framed-pane shadows inch across the quilt. Golden. I ease into peace. My breathing settles into a normal rhythm. No, all is good right now. You’re okay, Shelli.

My reasoning and questioning twists my stomach. How had life come to such? When did I start waking in the morning wondering if I could be happy? When did that become my story? That was a first. Ugh. And I don’t like it. When did outside factors take over my happiness? Life pressed me, I suppose. This. That. How had I allowed this wonderful life to stress me to such a degree?

I’m so thankful for this breath–the one I just took–regardless of what is happening in my life. I’m here … in this day. Do you hear that, Shelli? You’re here in this day. You woke to another day.

Regardless of the past. Regardless of anything the future holds.

My thoughts settle on my oldest daughter. Her love for reading came so early on, just a babe. She’d reach for a book, her treasured possessions, and start toddling backwards. My lap or anyone else’s had better be there to catch her fall. One of her favorite books was Guess How Much I Love You. When #2 came along, she fell right in line with the love for that sweet book. And the girls were so loved when they came into this world that they own four copies of that precious book.

Those girls and their love for reading alone are enough reason to wake with a smile, to wake with assurance.

DSC_0866DSC_0861DSC_0865I grip the covers. What’s wrong with me, God? Are you listening to me? I’m here, and I’m struggling.

DSC_0814 (3)I feel God speak over my heart–

You don’t have to wonder if you can be happy or if you are loved. Take my Word. You have so many copies of it, child. Take my Word for it. And start backing up. Fall into my lap. Because you are so loved. 

You know how much. Does it truly need repeating? After all these years. Truly?

I love you so much that I stretched out my arms … this wide …

DSC_0815 (3)I looked beyond the thorns …

DSC_0816 (3)When someone lays down their life for you, Shelli Ann, every morning blade of grass is graced with joy. The joy that is down in your heart. The joy that you reached out your elementary-school hands to accept. You never have to guess if you are loved. You never have to wonder how to feel. You have been filled with the lifeblood of happiness, peace, joy, love. Know it. Feel it down to your bones. It’s your story.

DSC_0763 - CopyJoy comes in the mourning, on any morning.

I throw back the covers and plant my feet on that solid foundation.


Am I alone, y’all? Have you ever woken like that? Not sure if you could feel happy or if you needed to feel sad, stressed? What a choice, huh? It really is a choice. No matter what … we can choose love, happiness, joy. And just look at the treasure I discovered in my M&Ms this week–

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Happy Valentine’s Day

My Little Girls Are All Grown Up

It’s going to happen. Everyone thinks it will finally come down, it’ll finally snow.

Oh, I hope my #1 daughter’s university cancels classes. Because at the end of her busy break, I just need a break. I need one more day with her. One more day to hold her close and never let go. One more day to put the phone down, put the TV remote down. One more day to focus on my true loves.

“Mommy …!” she shouts, running to me.

Lo and behold, her university canceled classes. I jump for joy and clap my hands. I get one more day with her, with absolutely nothing demanding of us.

DSC_0442 (3)And after a little so-called dusting of snow, or ice, commences–beautiful, pure change over the horizon–#2 brings me her writing assignment, asking me to look at it. Taking the treasured pages in my hands, I read:

Ever since I was little, I always dreamed of becoming a veterinarian. I even wanted to be an animal myself for years, because I thought they were so cool.

I laugh out loud. She goes on to explain how she had wanted to be a vet, but seeing an animal surgery made her weak, nauseated, pale. A change of plans. She had to sit down, in another area. The vet’s cat came over and loved on her. The doctor gave her a chance to rest, regain her composure, and she returned to the surgery room. But at the sight of surgery, she continues to say–

I started slumping down the wall I was leaning against.

I returned to the chair with the cat.

I laugh again. Yes, my daughter wrote those words. The words that would begin her very first college English paper.

Did you get that? Her first college paper. My baby. Because while I was wishing for one more day with my #1, I had no idea that two days later I’d step foot out without #2. Both my babies are in college. Both. #2 hasn’t even seen the end of her senior year yet. I kick the ground. I know this isn’t anything new for most, but as a home-school mom, I’d anticipated a few more months with my #2 before she started college. Like next fall. But the door flew wide open, and somehow we tumbled right in.

Hugs and “mmmmm … smack.” I watch them head out the garage door. They’re weighed down with full backpacks. Their first day together without me. Because the first two days, I trailed along. I did. I had lunch with them and everything. It was glorious. But that’s it. No more. I’ve got to grow up, too.

Shivering, I slump against my car, leaving my imprint in the dust and watching them get situated in the car.

DSC_0447 (3)Words from yesteryear peek over my shoulder–

“Why does she pucker her lips like that?” he asked. “Monkey kisses.” He laughed.

“I don’t know,” I said.

Scan_Pic0024 (3)I turned to my daughter. “Goodnight, baby. Give me kisses.” I leaned in. I puckered. She puckered. Big puckers. “mmmmm … smack!”

Realization dawned and laughter tumbled out of me, causing me to collapse onto the bed beside her. It’s me. All me. I taught her that. I taught her the big pucker. The cutest monkey kisses.

Oh my goodness. The things I’ve taught them. The things I haven’t. Have I taught them enough? Have I left the right impressions on their lives, on their hearts? Will they be okay? Will I be okay?

The car inches forward, not waiting for the answer. All routine for #1. And now routine for #2. Could you just wait till I figure out the answer? Till I figure out this whole thing? The car stops, and they wave and blow kisses. The car can’t proceed without kisses. The sweetest monkey kind. I return it all, with all my heart and some. Onto the hand and thrown across the air, like my grandmother taught me. To #1 and now #2. I catch mine and they catch theirs. We prolong the waves and kisses for just a little longer, ensuring we see each other. Not wanting to miss a single thing. Like we could.

The car accelerates down the driveway, leaves kicking up behind it, and proceeds down our Texas county road. When they are out of sight, I push the button and shut the garage–the full weight bearing down and crashing to the ground–as a chapter in our lives unexpectedly ends and another beautifully begins.

I go sit with the cats.

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What chapters are ending or beginning in your life? May I pray for you? 

The Right & The Left Unite For A Merry Christmas

The phone rings. It’s my girl.

“Hi, baby,” I say, using my softest tone reserved for my girls.

“Mom, I don’t know what to do. I’m scared. I’m shaking.”

“What’s up?” My legs begin to tremble, and the hair on my arms raises.

DSC_9533 (6) - Copy“I’m in government class, and we’ve broken up into groups,” she whispers. “My group has decided to do a discussion about an issue that I can’t support. They all support it. But Mom, I’m afraid to speak up. I don’t know what to do.” Her voice drifts off into a lonely place. Surrounded by people, yet lonely. I’ve been there.

My heart plunges into my gut and begins to jostle around for freedom, for peace, for strength. Freedom, peace, strength for my girl. “Baby, you have to speak up. If you don’t, everyone will think that you believe it’s okay. And you won’t be okay with that.”

“I know, Mom.” Determination laces her voice. “But … I’m so scared.”

“You’ve got this. I’m praying for you.” Because we can let some things slide, but some things have to be man-handled. Girl-handled.

DSC_9511 (5) - CopyThe phone rings.

“Hi, baby.” Hurry words … assure me. God, let her be okay.

“I did it, Mom. I think several in the group were glad I spoke up. I think they believed like me, but they were afraid, too. The leader decided that half can discuss that topic, and the other half can discuss another topic. She didn’t seem too happy about it, but …” She pauses.

I exhale a sigh of relief, then laugh. “That’s great, Baby. I’m so proud of you.” Yes, you are discovering who you are, what you believe, and that it’s okay to have a different opinion.

“One girl from the group kept glaring at me through class.”

DSC_9519 (6)DSC_9516 (6)Weeks pass.

I step into Chick-fil-A and take a seat across the booth from my girl.

“Mom, government class discussion went so good today.” She bounces on the bench. “Someone just had to bring up another controversial topic.” She nearly slumps. “But, Mom, we had such a good talk.” She straightens and smiles. “Those of us against it gave our side. We just told them that though we didn’t agree, we don’t dislike them for having a different opinion. We aren’t mad at them. One guy said that he didn’t understand why we felt the way we did, but he told me that he liked how kind I was about everything I had to say on the issue.”

One hand extended and the other accepted. The aisle between disappeared, leaving only people. Beautiful feet. Good people. Kind people. Because difference doesn’t always have to equal division. Surely, difference can be united with love.

“And Mom, he said he’d never met a Christian before.”

“He’s met one now.” I nod.

“At the end of class, we all walked out of the room, smiling, high-fiving, and talking with each other. Happy. Friends, Mom. And when I glanced over at our teacher, he shook his head, smiling in amusement at us.” She giggles. “He said, ‘Y’all are the best class I’ve ever had.'”

I shake my head gently, my lips pressing into a smile. My girl is my hero. Oh, yes. Making friends with non-likeminded people. A beautiful concept. Because one might lean right and one might lean left, but we can all lean in with kindness.

DSC_9530 (4) - CopyI wrap myself in the warmth of my jacket. “Baby, that’s so awesome. I’m so proud of you. I think people should be able to disagree, but love.” We mingle together in this sorted world constantly. And why not?

“Yeah. God fought the battle for me, Mom. It was such a great day. Even the girl who had been glaring at me has been smiling at me instead.”

My heart glows–my girl is acknowledging her Savior. All those years of teaching, trying to help her see and understand … yes. Thank you, Father.

Because when the soft strand of the right sweeps over the doubled over strand of the left, with a gentle reach and a little heart-tug, they come together to make the most gorgeous bow. If one tends to be right-handed. And when the soft strand of the left sweeps over the doubled over strand of the right, with another gentle reach and a little heart-tug, they come together to make the most gorgeous bow. If one tends to be left-handed. Because it’s all in the reaching, the softness, the kindness–the sweetest Christmas present to this mama, for her girl. Love bestowed by and on her girl in the difference by the different. Yes, Lord, yes.


Do you have a story of kindness to share? Merry Christmas, Y’all.